EMC Documentum iPad App – workflow tasks

Adequate infrastructureThis is the third and last part of my review of the EMC Documentum iPad application. I wanted to see how it behaves for Documentum workflow tasks.

Briefly, there are 3 major categories of workflow (aka processes) you can run in Documentum platform (aka xCP sometimes):

– quickflows. One user wants to send a document to a sequence/set of others. Ad-hoc, no predefined rules.

– standard document routing. A process template is defined and an information package can be routed through it.

– xCP process. much closer to a pure BPM flow, very similar actually to the document routing above, but with more features (Eg. more advanced forms, integrations etc.)

The process templates are build using Documentum Process Builder using also Forms Builder… etc. All part of the Documentum “xCP” bundle.

Now… the Documentum mobile (iPad) application says it enables users to work with tasks in their inbox. All the above workflows/processes end up in the user’s Inbox as tasks. Let’s see them!

Quickflows

Test scenario: pick a document, start quicklow, select 2-3 users as destination, enter some instructions, click some options…

Work just as you would expected (after reading my previous posts). You see the task in the iPad app Tasks list, you can click on it, see the task instructions as laid out by the originator, you can comment on it and finish it. You can also see the document content (in the same way as in all the other sections of the application, see previous post). Acces to document metadata is a bit clumsy as usual (you need to try to see the document to get a 2-more-taps method of viewing the builtin attributes).

Document routing

Test scenario: design a process template with 1 manual activity, start a document on this process

They are very similar with the quickflows. The only noticeable difference is the name of the task (which is given by the process design not the document attachment, obviously).

One nice touch is that the iPad app allows the user to also “electronically sign-out” the task if requested by the workflow design (meaning the user is asked to re-enter his/hers password… this is the “sign-out” feature). I wasn’t expected that.

One not so nice thing is that once you open the task you see only one “Finish” button. Clicking on it will complete the task (or bring out a menu o alternative options if any are available as designed). You can’t “cancel” the task display (as in “i don’t want to finalize you right now… later!”) by tapping a button. You need to “slide” the task display page away. A bit counter-intuitive. I’ve already seen 2-3 persons clicking on “Finish” to close it. And this was wrong as the task was “completed”. Ergonomy fail.

xCP process

Test scenario: design an “xCP” process (with a “task form”) and start the process from TaskSpace.

Well, here is simple:

The task shows in inbox, you click to see it and wonder how the task form will be rendered. The answer is a “500 Server Error” with a “NullPointerException” reported. End of the test.

As a conclusion:

The current EMC Documentum iPad application can handle simplistic inbox/task features. Can’t be used if the user needs access to custom package/document metadata or  the tasks have forms associated with them (not just plain document routing).

As far as I see it. The iPad application is a reasonable showcase of features for basic DMS but just for demo purposes or very very limited real use cases. I stand by my advice to EMC to make the application “open” for partners to extend and get it closer to the actual real world business requirements.

And another thing: the app design should use the iOS/iPad Apple UI design advices. Currently is a bit non-standard. This is good for entertainment apps, but for this kind of software… you should stick with the beaten path in order to make it easier to the “new user” :).

Next? A review of the Alfresco iPad App which just surfaced in the App Store.

EMC iPad Application – mind your DNS entries

Documentum Mobile Server and iPad Application and DNS stuff

DNS connectionsHow does the EMC Documentum iPad App work? Do we need to take care of anything specific?

Well, suppose you installed the Documentum Mobile Server on your Tomcat application server under http://dctmappserver/mobile URL.

The first thing you need to do is define the profile. See my previous post for details on that.

It can come in handy to test the accesibility of the mobile server from a browser. You can safely do this by accesing this URL:

http://dctmappserver/mobile/repositories/

This produces a nice XML with more navigationable URL-s such as http://dctmappserver/mobile/repositories/REPONAME/folders). Enjoy them.

For more hints visit the web.xml.

After all goes well, the application will start to chat with the server when needed. Communication is based on simple JSON HTTP calls. Authentication is HTTP BASIC (so you can play from your browser..).

The conversation is very clean. Again, thanks for not using DFS. Much appreciated!

Ok, but why are you telling all this? Because I was kind of forced to look into it when my installation of the software did not work properly. Browsing was ok but I could not see any specific document type/format icons and could not download any document content.

And now the fun stuff.

The iPad app runs on… well.. your iPad. Which network is your iPad connected to (3G, public WiFi, VPN)? This matters quite a lot because you iPad will need to solve some DNS names while you frenetically touch it :).

“names”? As in plural? Yes!

One name: the application server where the mobile server is installed to. This is easily controllable since you entered it when configuring the plugin. So you can put in IP there and forget about DNS resolution.

Second name: the ACS name. This is the ACS server communicated by the content server when you need to download content of a file. While that specific ACS might be accesible by regular Documentum web end users or enteprise applications… your iPad might have a problema with that. Because of the DNS resolution or the firewall. You can control what will be used here from within Documentum Administrator at the repository Distributed Content ACS configuration… ok…

Third name: the thumbnail server name. This is used at least for providing a nice icon for each object you see when browsing on the iPad. And this “thumbnail URL” is a mistery where it comes from. I’m not sure actually who generates it. The thumbnail server has multiple (uh!) configuration files, each in different places and in different formats (user.dat, storage.dat, pfile.txt, server.xml, …). Not documented, of course. Inspecting these files you can see in storage.dat (in it’s “binary” format) what looks like an URL template for getting thumbnails. And which looks extremely and very similar to the one returned in the JSON talk between the app and the mobile server. Here the server name seems to be the one defines as the computer name (I’m not sure if it’s the FQDN… could be). Nobody asked this during configuration so it’s taken automatically when you configure the thumbnail server for each docbase. And why this is not good? Because your iPad might not know that server by that name. And… no nice icons for you!

One can think you can change the value here (binary edit, mind you) and have the issue solved. Wrong! At least for me. I changed it, restarted everything on earth… nothing happened. So.. mind you.. in order to get thumbnails working properly in Documentum Mobile Application on iPad you need to provide DNS services to your iPad to solve correctly that server name. How do you do that? It’s your task, for me I solved it so it can be done.

Now I’m off to see the custom properties handling and tasks.

As of right now custom properties are not displayed for documents. And not even transferred from the server (even though a lot of other/all system attributes are transferred by default).

Also, I have trouble opening tasks… Some null pointer exception on the server.

PS: Did I tell you that I think java.lang.NullPointerException is always a developer error?

I hope this helps other demonstrate this mobile app for Documentum. Making it easier for the new user. Meanwhile somebody is pulling a lot of hair.